It's probably fair to say that by the time the emperor Caligula made his favorite horse Incitatus a senator, the glory days of the Roman senate were long past. What was once an august deliberative body had already gradually been diminished by the overweening control of powerful, godlike emperors. The final humiliation reducing the senate to the status of a horse's ass didn't really matter.
But the US House of Representatives and the US Senate have suffered an even worse fate than gradual strangulation by a series of divine rulers. US leaders have not been the primary reason for congress' present reduction to irrelevancy, try though they might.
On the contrary, the US Senate and House of Representatives have done themselves in. By voting for the current health care bill, both bodies of congress have consigned themselves to irrelevancy. Both have become as moribund and ineffectual as the Roman Senate under Caligula. That is because both have handed over their law making and regulatory powers to a vast bureaucracy they themselves have just created.
It's not that there aren't bureaucracies already existing which are, by and large, dead weights on American society. Self-perpetuating, regulatory and controlling nightmares have already been inserted into the societal fabric.
But the bureaucracy just created and about to be signed into law creates a monstrous organization controlling just about every aspect of American's lives. Even more to the point, the giant agency about to be put into place will busy itself, like every other agency, making rules and regulations. The new self-perpetuating health care bureaucracy, along with others still to be put into place, will make endless rules, laws and regulations. Americans will have no or little say concerning the new regulations, for it is truly difficult, if not impossible, to make agencies and bureaucracies accountable to the will of the people.
The above means Congress will gradually be put out of business. It will become largely symbolic as the newly minted bureaucracy takes its place.
In addition to the plethora of new laws and regulations spewed forth by health care bureaucrats and appointees, a newly empowered president with the capacity to hire and fire said appointees will preside over the bureaucratic nightmare, increasing his say over the country's destiny without the tedium of dealing with fractious deliberative bodies.
But perhaps even more importantly, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have, by passing the health care legislation, proved themselves irrelevant because they now are not representative bodies. To put it bluntly, by passing a health care package odious to the majority of the American people, our representatives and senators have shown they no longer represent the will of their constituents, but are bought and sold to the wheelers and dealers complicit with the White House.
The upshot is that being elected a senator or representative no longer matters as far as the voice of the people is concerned. It no longer matters who is elected because the point of being elected was to represent the people who vote, and that rather important commission has no more relevance. While thankfully no one will have to see the fake torments and supposed agonies of conscience of a Bart Stupak or a Mary Landrieu, Americans have suffered what might be an irreparable loss; namely, no one will be speaking for them. In such a scenario, no individual's vote for his or her representative matters, as all representatives are become merely interchangeable faces and ineffectual, gutted zombies rubber stamping the status quo.
In sum, as of yesterday, congress voted itself out of power. It made itself as irrelevant as Caligula's senate. The power has gone elsewhere. It has gone to the White House, a privileged cabal of appointees and to the new bureaucracies.
The result? Power no longer belongs to the people.
Welcome to the brave new world of 2010.